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Empire State Games in trouble

By Brian Hillabush

This very well could be the beginning of the end of the Empire State Games.

It was announced by The Buffalo News this morning that the Empire State Games might be downsizing, and in fact starting to charge athletes up to $300 each to participate in the summer games.

"I would say that this is a very unfortunate thing because it would keep a lot of scholastic athletes that are trying to play in Empires out," said Batavia coach Buddy Brasky, who has coached the last three Western squads. "There are a lot of kids that couldn't afford to pay that feed. It could lead to the end of the Scholastic Empire State Games." 

Western Regional director Lou Reuter also doesn't feel very good about the future of the games.

“I can understand that everyone is having to take a hit,” he told Buffalo News reporter Niki Cervantes, because of the weak economy and state budget crisis. “But it’s almost like the demise of the Empire State Games.”

Reports are that some sports - assuming the non-spectator sports - could flat out be eliminated, but without help from the state, this year's games in the Hudson River Valley could be in serious trouble.

Brasky can only keep 10 players on his scholastic boys basketball team, but can see where it will be a problem for him to attract quality players that are from lower income families.

"(If I were going to recommend) that a player tries out for the games, I would leave it up to the individual athlete," Brasky said. "I still think it is a worthwhile experience, but they have to see if it is worth a $300 experience. With all the AAU basketball out there, I don't know if kids would pay that kind of money to play in the Empire State Games."

Brasky has 10 roster spots to worry about. Imagine what the track & field coaches and wrestling coaches would have to worry about if those larger squads. 

As somebody that has covered these games before, I know that there is funding by the New York State Office of Parks and other organizations, but I have never noticed a lack of corporate sponsorships. It really is never a problem to get a $6 hot dog or $4 bottle of water either.

Times are tough for everybody as we are dealing with this economic downswing, but having a chance to get the best athletes in the state together during the summer time for a chance to compete is something worth fighting for. 

And it might not be just athletes that would feel the frustration if the student athletes are charged to participate. Some coaches just don't know if the extra effort of trying to get good enough talent to compete will be possible, or even worth it.

"I'd have to think about (coming back to coach this summer," Brasky said. "This is the first time I've heard about this, so I'm going to get in touch with director Lou Reuter. This is something I'm going to have to think about, if I want to keep going under these circumstances."

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